Steamers' second half off to rough start

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Edenton Steamers' Devon Gardner

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By David Gough
Sports Writer

Friday, July 6, 2018

With four Steamers already named to this year’s Coastal Plain League all-star team last week, Devon Gardner was not one of them.

But the left fielder still had a chance after being named as a part of the final vote for fans to decide. After a couple days of waiting, he found out Monday that he became the fifth Steamer headed to Lexington, South Carolina, this weekend.

“I found out when my dad texted me to say congratulations,” Gardner said. “We were on the road. I had been checking in and out of the standings, but it’s a pretty nice feeling that I was voted in by the fans.”

The entire team got in on the act of trying to get Gardner voted in with a video. Players and coaches expressed just how good they thought he was as a person and a player.

For much of the season, Gardner has had one of the top on-base percentages in the league. He will be joining Rich Ciufo, Zane Harris, Charles Hall and Jake Miller in Lexington.

“They’re all great guys and they all truly deserve it,” Gardner said. “I’m really stoked to be on the team with them.”

Lately, Gardner and his Edenton teammates have hit a rough patch in the season. The momentum they carried through to the end of the first half is no longer there and now they’re off to a slow start to the second half.

With a back-and-forth 11-inning loss to Wilson on Thursday, Edenton fell to an 0-4 record to begin the final half. The 10-8 loss was the game that hurt the most of those four.

It was the Steamers’ ninth game in seven days and it was their seventh loss in that span. Six of those games came in three days with all three doubleheaders being on the road.

“It’s taking a toll on the guys,” head coach Russ Burroughs said. “I know that they’re worn out. It’s rough playing this schedule, but that’s just the way it is because of mother nature.”

Thursday’s game had its bright spots before the eventual loss. The Steamers came back twice to take the lead.

The first time came in the fifth inning thanks to three runs coming across to score. Anthony Warneke tied it up with a two-run double in the right field gap.

Ciufo hit him in with a single immediately after to give Edenton its first lead.

The Steamers held onto that lead until the eighth when the Tobs took a 5-4 lead, but the Steamers likely would never have been in front if not for the work of Ben Anderson.

The reliever, Burroughs originally planned to have pitch on Friday, came in with no outs and bases loaded in the third inning after Zach Stromberg struggled to find the strike zone. Anderson did allow two inherited runners to score right out of the pen, but he was lights out for the rest of his night.

In five innings, the right-hander struck out 11 batters including six of the first seven outs he recorded. He only gave up four hits and two of them came in his final inning of work that he ended up back to the dugout unscaathed.

This came five days after no earned runs and ten strikeouts in a five-inning start against Wilmington.

“He was fantastic,” Burroughs said. “I knew he was done after the seventh, wish we could’ve gotten him out for one more.”

Yet, the Steamers let the lead slip away in the eighth and had to find a way to rally. With one out and a runner on, T.J. Wegmann provided what Edenton hoped to be the final blow of the game.

The catcher hit a two-run home run. It was his first shot of the season and his first two runs batted in. Despite having an exceptional .392 OBP, he had only been hitting .186 for the year.

“I couldn’t be happier for the kid,” Burroughs said. “He works his tail off. It was definitely a good moment for him.”

Unfortunately for the Steamers, Wilson tied it up the next inning and eventually won in the 11th after some untimely fielding mistakes by Edenton.

Now, Burroughs just wants his guys to press the reset button. The right amount of rest might be coming soon with the all-star break right around the corner.

“I think the three-day break will be much needed as long as they take care of themselves,” Burroughs said. “I think the rest will be good for them to clear their mind and get them away from baseball just for a little.”